The Pursuit of Ikigai as a Woman in Business
A proud mama moment
Last week I had a very proud mama moment as my son took a walk across the stage to acknowledge being awarded a Master of Science Degree in Pharmacology and Biotechnology. A very different kind of emotion compared to the day he received his A level results.
Back in August 2018, he’d been devastated to ‘only’ get a B in Biology, it scuppered his plans to study Neuroscience as he’d needed an A. He was upset. I was upset for him. He had been a straight A student all the way through, and it was an unexpected shock. Now what?
He confessed to not wanting to accept his second-choice course. We decided he’d withdraw, take his chances, and go through clearing to find something else. I remember feeling nervous for him as I was on my PC and he was on his laptop trawling through the courses with spaces left, to find something that he fancied doing. It was a stressful few days as we waited to see if things worked out.
My thoughts were that he’d have a great student experience wherever he went, but the key thing was that he needed to be on a course where he’d enjoy the work. To be motivated, as a teenager living away from home, (with all the distractions and new experiences that brings,) to get out of bed, go to lectures and study is only going to happen if you love the subject.
It was a relief when we got the notification that he’d been accepted, and he could pick up his plans for student life. Ironically, the course he studied for his degree was Human Biology after all that!
It meant a lot to me for him to get it right. I certainly didn’t want him racking up a whole load of debt and spending several years working towards something that he didn’t enjoy. You want better for your child.
Ikigai - the secret to a long & happy life
If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know that I’ve been in a job that made me miserable. Where I dreaded getting up to spend the day just going through the motions. It sucked the life out of me and affected my mental health. Thankfully that’s all in the dim and distant past. I’m celebrating 8 years this week since I officially started my business. 1st December 2014.
I’ve been doing a bit of reflecting over the past 8 years and thinking about what I’d like to have happen in 2023and beyond. As each year in business has passed by it’s been more and more about refining and tweaking, ditching the stuff that doesn’t make my heart sing and finding the balance of what makes me happy but what also makes me money to pay the bills. It’s all about trying to reach the state of ikigai.
Ikigai (pronounced ee-kee-guy) is all about your reason for being, your life’s purpose. It is the state of finding something that brings you joy and makes you feel fulfilled so that you want to get out of bed each morning. It’s where the Venn diagram of what you love doing, what you’re good at, what the world needs and what you can be paid for, all cross over. Apparently, according to the Japanese it’s the secret to a long and happy life.
Have a clear vision for your business
What I’ve found interesting recently is that if you’d asked about whether I’d always had a clear vision for my business over the past 8 years I’d probably say no. At times I’ve felt rudderless, tweaking and trying various products and services in an attempt to make my business a success. In fact, I’ve realised that I’ve always had clarity, despite not remembering it. It’s just been a case of my Ikigai not being aligned and needing adjusting!
I know this to be true because as I was having a sort out in my office last week, I found some letters. They were written in 2013 by me, to me. At the time I was rebuilding my life. I did a powerful exercise which involved writing letters to my future self, imagining my future life. They’d been put in envelopes with dates on. I’d written 5 of them to be opened in 2014, 2016, 2018, 2023 and 2033 respectively. I read through them all again (bar the 2033 one) yesterday. They were spookily accurate!
In them I talk about where my business and my personal life is for each period of time. I reflect on how I’ve played to my strengths and used my skills, knowledge, and experience to grow my business into a national concern with a network of ambassadors!
Here’s an excerpt from the 2023 one
‘How amazing that the business has umbrellaed out through the networking and franchising model. It’s fantastic that your dream to empower women and build confidence in ability and self esteem has blossomed out into this national framework…the vision remains the same but it’s now so much more than you in the front bedroom as your career and marriage fall apart around your feet. Out of misfortune your business was born.’
It shouldn’t have really been opened until this time next year. By then I expect I will have started to have licensees across the country for the FAB Network!There were only a couple of things in them that I haven’t managed to achieve yet – one was a detached house, the other a holiday home in Spain. They are still part of the long-term plan though.
A different approach to setting goals for business
Try it for yourself, I found it easier than just writing a list of goals. Give yourself time to really get stuck in. You need to be in a relaxed and creative mindset. Write yourself letters from the future, in a Back to the Future kind of way. To me it, at the time, it seemed easier to describe goals in the past tense and picture what it would be like to have achieved them. Think about how future you feels, what success is to future you, what it was along the journey that mattered, and what challenges did future you need to overcome.
Pop a date at the top, 3, 5, 10, 20 years into the future, then start to write to yourself...
Now start to describe where you are, what your life looks like, what your family are doing (don’t forget them!) What services or products really took off for you, what surprised you, what didn’t work as well as you thought, what goals do you have yet to achieve, what do you have planned for the day as your future self-etc. Remember to tell yourself how proud you are of what you’ve achieved. It’s a very powerful exercise. I remember feeling quite empowered when I did it.
It might help if you take some time to jot down your Ikigai goals to calibrate against before you start. Think about the following:
What do you love doing?
What does the world need?
What are you good at?
What can be paid for?
What you love + what the world needs = mission
What you love + what you’re good at = passion
What you’re good at + what can be paid for = profession
What can be paid for + what the world needs = vocation
What you love + what the world needs + what you’re good at + what can be paid for = ikigai
Reflecting on achievements
It’s a great time of year to be reflecting on your achievements and what you’d like to happen in the following year and beyond. If you can align your goals with ikigai, that when the magic happens! Let me know if you try the letters and how you get on with it.
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